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Enterprises need to start including wearables in their BYOD and data security plans

Enterprises need to start including wearables in their BYOD and data security plans

The popularity of wearables in the workplace is due to accelerate rapidly over the next twelve months, recently published research suggests. Raimund Genes, chief technology officer of Trend Micro, the firm that commissioned the research, said IT departments need to begin incorporating wearable computing devices into their data protection and device management policies in order to mitigate data security challenges associated with such a rapid proliferation of devices.

TrendMicro surveyed 100 senior IT decision makers across the UK, and found 61 per cent of UK respondents said their organisations actively encourage the use of wearables in the workplace, with smartwatches and activity trackers looking like the most popular devices so far. And about 20 per cent of respondents said they plan to implement wearables in the next 12 months.

The company said most of those polled were interested in deploying wearables in order to improve staff productivity; about a quarter are deploying activity and fitness trackers as part of a business insurance programme or benefits scheme – such as private health insurance, where increased daily activity can translate into lower monthly premiums.

But the vast majority of respondents (85 per cent) also said the rapid proliferation of wearables presents IT security risks such as data theft, and there are also concerns around auto-syncing of corporate data.

According to Genes, nearly one in ten said their organisations have no security protocols or guidelines for personal devices of any kind that connect to corporate data.

He said organisations need to start incorporating wearables into their BYOD strategies as soon as possible, a feeling shared by high-level IT decision makers polled by the firm. Over 82 per cent of respondents said their organisations’ IT or BYOD security policies will have to change in order to account for wearables.

“Any new device that enters the business environment presents a security risk, and it is inevitable that wearables will connect to corporate data, just like other smart devices,” he said. “These threats will only increase as wearables become more sophisticated and more of them enter the enterprise. It is crucial that organisations think about the measures they can take to minimise the threat from wearables, before they become as omnipresent as smartphones.”

What do you feel are the main barriers to Internet of Things adoption?

  • Existing IoT services / apps don't offer much value (28%, 235 Votes)
  • Data privacy and data security concerns (27%, 226 Votes)
  • I don't know what the Internet of Things is (24%, 202 Votes)
  • Other (15%, 123 Votes)
  • Today's IoT services / apps are too expensive (6%, 45 Votes)

Total Voters: 831

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Vinod Bange, partner and data protection specialist at international law firm Taylor Wessing commented on the results of the survey: “A smartwatch tracking health metrics like blood pressure and heart rate during a normal day, or perhaps during exercise, could mean people literally wear their hearts on their sleeve. The question inevitably focusses on whether the individual has any understanding of what happens to that data when the wearable is ‘connected’?”

“Data protection regulators are increasingly concerned about the fundamental points of transparency and consent in relation to the sharing of such sensitive personal data.  Regulators are keen that users are made fully aware of what will happen to such data and that ‘choice’ is prominently built into the use of the devices. There is no doubt that the entire data cycle flowing from wearables should be subject to stringent control measures as identified through a ‘privacy by design’ model,” Bange said.

Compliance aside, recently published research also suggests that many within IT feel they lack the analytics or skills capabilities to manage the risks associated with these technologies despite significant data security concerns. That said, it is possible appetite for corporate-driven wearables deployments could remain fairly low until enterprises can adequately ensure they are capable at mitigating these challenges.